Cole Swendseid is quickly discovering similarities between Volkswagens and the people who drive them.
As the new co-owner and general manager of the Vernon Volkswagen dealership (formerly Royal Volkswagen) on the auto mile, Swendseid has noticed an up-front, no-frills approach from both the German auto manufacturer and the consumer alike.
“The Volkswagen customer is well-educated so you just got to be in tune,” said Swendseid, who purchased the franchise with his brother, Scott, from former owner Terry Lowe.
“You can’t go in there and buffalo them or anything like that. If you rub them the wrong way, you’re done.
He says the Volkswagen brand follows much the same no-nonsense approach.
“It’s ‘here’s what you’re getting, this is what’s expected and if it isn’t in there let us know and we’ll fix it for you.’”
Swendseid, a 37-year-old father of three, moved with his family to the Okanagan from Drayton Valley, Alta. where he co-owns the Stetson GM dealership with Scott.
“I grew up in Westbank as a little gaffer so I know the area and wanted to give my family the same lifestyle I had as a kid,” said Swendseid.
“I was looking for a franchise that suited our needs and this Volkswagen dealership came up. It’s a smaller community and that’s exactly what I know. I know how it works and operates.”
Swendseid is fully aware that with the economy continuing to struggle, new car dealers are having to compete more than ever to earn patronage. In addition to better pricing and incentives, he says one way of attracting new business (and retaining current clientele) is to offer stellar customer service.
Since he took over June. 1, Swendseid has increased staff levels from 12 to 19, including a second technician to help deal with servicing and repairs. The dealership is also offering a courtesy car service for added customer convenience.
Regarding Volkswagens themselves, Swendseid says there is increased value throughout the lineup. He points to the Jetta, which has been given a better price point to make it more competitive with other class models. And as always, VW boasts its ultra-efficient diesel engines that are capable of 1,500 kilometres on a single tank of fuel.
As a founding member of the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Drayton Valley Thunder, Swendseid is a believer in community involvement. Once established, he plans to continue that trend in Vernon.
“We’re going to be small sponsorship right now… but once I get established I will see what areas of the community I want to invest money into.”